Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

College review by Lisa Bleich

RISD is an urban campus located right in downtown Providence about a 5-minute uphill walk to Thayer St. (the college town around Brown University.)  The campus is very hilly, but the buildings are pretty brick and the interiors boast modern, cool architecture.  The library has unique architectural designs with vaulted ceilings, wide steps that double as seating and a mezzanine study center.  Cubbies and art spaces with black light pepper the aisles along with the large collection of art books and magazines.

RISD Tour Guide

The student body is more female than male.  Many girls have either braids or buzz cuts and dye their hair different colors throughout the year.  Overall students are artsy, urban hipster with a creative flare.

There is a divide among students who come from money with a lot of artistic training and students who receive financial aid.  Sometimes professors assume that students are less talented if they are not already familiar with certain techniques.  There is also a large Korean contingent.

Students work really hard up to 60 hours per week, particularly during the foundation year.  Some students drop out after the first year because it is too difficult, but after that first year, students feel comfortable with their skills and build confidence.

RISD is expensive, while they try to meet full demonstrated need; they do not guarantee to meet the full gap.  There is a surcharge for art supplies which runs between $2,500 to $3,000 per year depending on the discipline.

Admissions places a lot of emphasis on the Art Portfolio and sophomore and junior grades (will also factor in senior grades for students whose grades have gotten progressively better).  They have very specific portfolio requirements and essay questions which change every year.

They want to see your best work and the work that you are most passionate about.  It is easiest to upload your portfolio to SlideRoom.com.  Follow the directions explicitly as they want to keep all of your papers within your file.  They will also read up to 3 letters of recommendation.

Student Work

RISD has cross registration with Brown and many students take advantage of that particularly for foreign language and science courses.  One-third of RISD’s curriculum is in the liberal arts, which are offered at RISD, but many students can also fulfill them by taking classes at Brown.

There is a highly competitive 5-year BA/BFA program combined degree between Brown and RISD. Students must be accepted to both colleges for consideration. Only 35 students were admitted last year.

RISD students have many internship and career opportunities for the taking.  Google, Microsoft, Martha Stewart Living, Hallmark, Nike, Hasbro, Disney, and Pixar are some of the companies that recruit on campus.

RISD offers a world-class visual arts education for a serious, committed student who wants to fully immerse him/herself in art and wants to be surrounded by other creative, quirky, hipster, like-minded students.


Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
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